Wood Flooring DeMystified

Top interior designer and designer mentor, Lisa Kahn is principal of Kahn Design Group in Naples, Florida. Lisa uses her expertise to help clarify the pros and cons of wood flooring choices.>>

Wood floors are the darling of the flooring industry.  I know that all of my clients seem to love them and certainly I do too.  They never go out of style and in fact help to sell a home over any other flooring choice, according to every real estate agent I’ve ever asked.  There are those who even suggest that true, solid wood floors can even appreciate in value.

Softer underfoot than stone, a beautiful wood floor adds instant warmth and charm to a space and works for every look from mountain rustic to formal traditional, from modern to contemporary.  With so many products out there to choose from these days, how do you know which one is right for your space?  I have answers and will reveal them in a series of posts, discussing the major products, trends, finishes and applications.

Solid Wood:  The purist’s choice, hands-down is solid wood flooring every time.  With multiple installation methods, solid wood flooring is a wonderful product and wears well over many years if installed and maintained properly.  The solid wood boards are typically 3/4” to 5/16” thick.  This floor can be sanded down and refinished multiple times when it starts to show wear and tear.  There is a particularly delightful, distinctive sound and feel to footsteps when walking on a solid wood floor.  If you have ever walked across a wood-look laminate floor, you know exactly what I mean.  The hollow tapping of your shoes is a big disappointment!

In this guest loft, we specified a solid cherry floor, which added exactly the right touch to this rustic mountain lodge.  Low humidity in this home in Big Sky, MT made this a perfect product application. 


Engineered Wood:  A relative newcomer to the market, engineered wood flooring is a wonderful option when concerned about any of these issues:

  • durability
  • expansion or contraction of wood
  • transitions to other flooring materials like carpet or tile

Engineered wood floors are still real wood floors, but with a plywood core and three to nine layers of veneer.  Each layer of veneer runs in a different direction, rendering the planks much more stable and therefore less liable to expand or contract.  This makes it suitable for all climates.  It can be installed on or above grade, direct glued or nailed to a subfloor or concrete slab.  It is a low profile product that transitions well with carpeting and tile for both new construction and renovation projects.  Last, typically finished with an aluminum oxide layer, engineered floors resist scuffs and scrapes, making them perfect for high traffic areas and households with children and pets.  Certain engineered floors are even rated for commercial use.  The top layer is fine hardwood, so these floors can be sanded and refinished, but we find they don’t need it nearly as often due to the durability of the finish and overall product.

In this master bedroom we installed an engineered hickory floor that was hand-scraped and distressed.  In the doorway to the bathroom, the thin set stone tile floor was exactly the same height as the wood in the bedroom — a perfect installation!  This family has seven children and we knew that the flooring in this room would see a lot of activity and wear.  


Bamboo:  Considered a green and sustainable product, bamboo floors are another popular choice.  More stable than red oak and as hard as maple, bamboo as a flooring product has come on strong and is very much in demand.  It can come with or without the “nodes” that give the commonly known bamboo look.  These floors give a similar look to wood.  They are particularly beautiful in tropical homes and also more contemporary homes that benefit from the texture and interesting grain patterns.  The one cautionary tale with this floor is NEVER USE STEAM MOPS as they do not react well to water and moisture.  We have had a couple of unhappy clients with cupped bamboo floor boards that later found out their cleaning crews used steam mops to clean the floors.  This is actually true for wood floors as well — wood and water are not a good combination.  We will discuss maintenance of your investment more thoroughly in another article in our series.

In this living room we used Strand Bamboo which is rated for commercial use.  It handled the high traffic level, while creating the perfect, warm, rich backdrop for this elegant space.  

Wood floor can be a wonderful addition to almost any space.  It is important, however, to do your research and know what you are buying and that your application is suitable for the product you have picked.  Stay tuned for our next article in this series on choosing the right plank widths and finishes to help you select the perfect wood floor for your interior.


Lisa Kahn, author of this feature, is principal of  Kahn Design Group,  an Interior Design firm in naples, Florida. Lisa is top in class and would love to talk to you about designing a space perfect for you.

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4 Responses to “Wood Flooring DeMystified”

  1. Sam Says:

    Great article Lisa! It’s rare to see this clear of an explanation in such a concise fashion but you seem to have nailed it.




  2. Michael Salerno Says:

    Great summary on the merits of hardwood flooring. Engineered Flooring is an outstanding choice for the Canadian environment, particularly because of the fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels we experience. Modern technology that dates back to the 1970′s, Engineered Floors are hard to beat! http://www.idee17.com/WoodFloors/MyVintageCollection.aspx


    • Lisa Kahn Says:

      Thank you Michael. We experience many of the same challenges with humidity here in southwest Florida as well. Those engineered floors are indeed hard to beat!


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